Best Time To Go: June to October 10 Nights / 11 Days
The drive from the green of Himachal to the barren brown landscape of Leh is an experience of a lifetime!
Ascend up to Pang plateau and be enthralled by the desert encircled by snow-capped peaks!
Varalacha La, Pangong Tso, Nubra Valley, Khardungla Pass - everything you always heard of, now right here waiting to enchant you.
Best Time To Go: June to September
There's several words people have used to describe this road trip: "epic", "quaint", and "spell binding". And then there's"ethereal" , "surreal", "unreal". Pick the word here that touches your soul - and then believe in them all! Because above everything else, this is a "real" trip, totally do-able, and well within your reach. So don't just wish-I-could-do-this, just do it!
MHE were the first people who opened this road up for commercial trips (earlier only the Indian Army used this route) and we've burnt our tyres on this route several times over. It's a once in a lifetime experience, so buckle up and move!
When you trek with MHE, you can be assured that we are backed by many years in the business of providing safe and sustainable adventure trips. The staff you deal with in the office, all the way through to the guides and porters on trek, have years of experience in safe and enjoyable adventure behind them. We can advise you on the right gear, the right training, and no question is too crazy for us to answer.
Our trips are designed for your maximum enjoyment and comfort, taking into consideration the environment and conditions, wherever you are.
We use the best available accommodation, whether built structures or tents, with attached bathroom where available. Please remember though that you are in a remote and difficult location, and your expectations should be reduced accordingly.
We believe in sustainable, ethical and responsible tourism. Our guides are all certified and trained, the porters receive above standard wages, and we do not allow them to carry more than 30kg (the international standard set by IPPG as well as the government). Our crew are all insured, and provided with suitable clothing and equipment.
We support the local economy wherever possible, and do NOT encourage giving any gifts of sweets, pens etc to the charming local children you meet along the trail. If you are really interested to donate something, please discuss with us first.
Our "all inclusive" trip means that you aren't constantly rummaging for money, and you know up front what is included.
Trip starts from: Manali No. of days of the trip: 11 No. of driving days: 8 Maximum altitude: 5,360 m at Chang La Trip Grade: moderate All-Inclusive Cost: Please call us for details We are adventure lovers here at MHE and want to make adventure travel accessible to any one who yearns it. That is why we've introduced the Pay Monthly scheme. Simply call us for more details.
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN MANALI | 2050M
If you're coming during the monsoon season, i.e., June to mid-September, then your best option would be to drive up from Delhi - would take around 12 - 14 hours. The monsoons cause flight delays and cancellations - which isn't a fun way to start your epic holiday! There's a super overnight Volvo option too, which delivers you to Manali the next morning - well rested. In the other months, flying in to Bhuntar airport is the best and quickest way to get here. You could also look at flying in to Chandigarh and driving up - would take around 7 - 8 hours.
It is always advisable to stay in Manali for two nights. Its altitude of 6,726 feet allows the body to adjust to the higher altitudes to come. Besides, in the quaint little town of Manali, there’s never a dull moment!
We recommend you stay at Lama House. Built by Spiti Tulku Rimpoche, a Nyingma lama based in the Spiti valley, he built the home on land sanctified by his guru and on the basis of ancient rites of Tibetan Buddhism, This was a centre of higher learning for chosen monks and they say the walls of Lama House reverberate with their Buddhist chants even today, long after the Rimpoche moved back to his monastery in Spiti valley. Your host here is Pavane Mann - one of India's most experienced trekkers and rafting guide. This is her home now, and she will be delighted to have you stay with her! Overnight at Lama House (or similar). Meals: Dinner.
DAY 2: MANALI
One can never get bored ambling the streets of Mall Road but if you're looking for something off-beat we'd recommend a walk to the the Hadimba Devi temple said to be from the times of the Mahabharat. The little hamlet of Vashisht with the famous temple and hot springs, is close by and there are some lovely little restaurants that serve you Tibetan and Indian food.
Overnight at Lama House (or similar). Meals: Breakfast and Dinner.
DAY 3: DRIVE FROM MANALI TO JISPA, 138 KM | 5 - 6 HRS | 3200M
Have your breakfast at the hotel and kick-start your Manali to Leh Jeep Safari with a drive to Jispa. This high altitude road beyond the great Himalayan range connects the densely fertile and green Kullu valley to the stark barren region of Ladakh. The drive starts at Manali slowly winding up mountain roads till Rohtang Pass at 12,959 feet. This connects Kullu to Lahaul valley, as soon as you enter you will see a distinct change with the Hindu influence being replaced by the Buddhist religion. Packed lunch en-route and then a stop over at the Khardung Monastery situated on the left bank of the Bhaga River, above the Khardung village facing Keylong. If you like, you can trek 5 km till Keylong and take a walk through the small market. Your vehicle will be waiting for you there. From there drive to Jispa.
Dinner and overnight in hotel. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 4: DRIVE FROM JISPA TO TSO-KAR, 226 KM | 7 - 8 HRS | 4530M
Breakfast at hotel. And then you begin your road trip over the scenic Baralacha Pass (16,010 feet). On this scenic drive you will get to see Himalayan lakes like Deepak and Suraj Tal and a myriad of Himalayan flora and fauna along the way. After crossing the pass, you drop down to the vast Sarchu plains at an altitude of 13,780 feet. Lunch en-route.
From Sarchu, the road flattens into a good straight stretch of 25km known as the Lingti Plains and then climbs through a 10 km stretch of amazingly circuitous hairpin bends known as the Gatta Loops. We once again wind our way up the Lachung La Pass at 16,600 feet. From here the road twists its way to Pang through an amazing canyon with sheer cliffs and rocky outcrops looming up on both sides of the road. We will ascend up to the Pang Plateau also known as the More Plains situated at 15,700 feet., where the desert is encircled by snow-capped peaks! We drive on the sandy plateau to just a short distance from the village of Debring, where we leave the main road and drive for 45 minutes on a sandy track to our campsite on the banks of Tso Kar – a fluctuating salt lake at 13,894 feet. If you're into bird watching, this is the place to be. The Black-necked Cranes and Tibetan Grouse are relatively common here and the basin of the Tso-Kar and the adjoining More Plains are one of the most important habitats of the Kiang (Wild Ass), Tibetan Gazelles, Tibetan wolves and foxes.
Overnight in tents. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 5: TSO-KAR TO LEH, 153 KM | 4 - 5 HRS | 3500M
After breakfast, you drive to Leh. You will get packed lunch from the camp. After the plateau, we climb to the Tag Lang La pass at 17,362 feet. One of the highest motorable roads in the world, this pass gives way to beautiful views of the Karakoram Mountains and the Ladakh valley. Descend till Rumtse and drive through the Indus valley to Leh.
You are already acclimatized now, having driven in from Manal but we'd still ask you to take it easy. Ambe down the Leh market area - there are some lovely restaurants that serve some fantastic pizza and of course, local Tibetan food.
Overnight at Kang La Chen (or similar). Meals: Breakfast and Dinner.
DAY 6: MONASTERY SIGHT-SEEING NEAR LEH, 19 KM
After breakfast drive up along the scenic Indus valley. On the way, you stop over to visit the famous Shey, Thiksey and Hemis monasteries.
Shey Palace and Monastery: This summer palace of the erstwhile King of Leh set upon a hill. The monastery itself has a 7.5 meter high, copper statue of a sitting Buddha, wrought in gold. This is the largest of its kind in the world.
Thiksey Monastery: One of the largest and most impressive Gompas of Ladakh. The Thiksey Monastery provides a panoramic view of the green Indua Valley from its vantage point atop a hill. It has chambers full of statues, stupas and colourful Thankas.
Hemis Monastery: Situated just off the Manali-Leh highway, this is Ladakh's biggest and wealthiest monastery. The annual festival held here in summer is a spectacularly stunning experience! The festival coincides with the Buddha's birthday.
You can stop over for lunch at the restaurant in Thiksey Monastery - all vegetarian fare here. If you feel like eating some non-veg food, we will be happy to recommend some restaurants around the area (Tibetan Kitchen and Chopsticks Noodle Bar are personal favourites!)
Later in the evening, at sunset, the Shanti Stupa is a must-visit. A photographer's delight, you simply need to wait for the sun's rays to bounce off the white dome - and you've created memories of a lifetime!.
Overnight will be back in Kang La Chen (or similar). Meals: Breakfast only. We've kept the option of dinner open because we know that most of our guests prefer to amble around the market place and make reservations of their own choosing.
DAY 7: LEH TO HUNDAR IN THE NUBRA VALLEY, 126 KM | 4 - 5 HRS | 3560M
After breakfast you will drive to Nubra Valley via Khardungla Pass – the highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 feet.
Nubra is a tri-armed valley located to the north east of Ladakh and its head quarters is at Diskit, home to the dramatically positioned Diskit Monastery. Local scholars say that its original name was Ldumra (the valley of flowers). The average altitude of the valley is about 10,000 feet.
Hundar used to be the last point beyond which non-locals were not allowed to go. You will need an inner line permit to enter this area. About 80 KM beyond Hundar, lies the village of Turtuk - unseen by tourists until 2010. You will see a marked presence of people startlingly taller, fairer and with sharp features and high cheekbones. It's an amazing quaint village just a three hour drive from Hundar and well worth the visit, if you can extend your trip by a trip from the current itinerary.
Between Hundar and Diskit lie several kilometres of sand dunes, and the two-humped Bactrian camels graze in the neighboring "forests" of seabuckthorn. You will see tourists riding on these camels - something MHE will not recommend. Their tribe has increased and been saved from extinction due to these tourist rides, but it's a double-edged sword. There is enough evidence of cruelty to suggest, we'd be better off just letting them roam free and admiring them from a distance.
Overnight at Karma Inn (or similar) in Hundar. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 8: HUNDAR TO LEH, 126 KM
Enjoy your stay in Hundar, drive down to the sand dune and catch a glimpse of the Bactrian camels in the wild. A surreal sight! Post lunch, you will depart for your journey back to Leh.
Overnight at Kang La Chen (or similar). Meals: Breakfast only.
DAY 9: LEH TO PANGONG TSO, 223 KM | 5 - 6 HRS | 4250M
Make an early start and drive east of Leh via Chang-la Mountain Pass (18,000) feet to Pangong Lake at 14,270 feet. It’s a 5-hour drive and the views all around Chang La are simply spectacular. Mesmerizing vistas with the changing hues of the waters of the lovely lake are a photographer’s dream come true.
The lake is an endorheic basin, which means it is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or ocean. The lake extends from India to Tibet where the actual line of control passes through. The lake is an important breeding ground for a variety of migratory birds.
Overnight in deluxe tents. Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
DAY 10: PANGONG TSO TO LEH, 223 KM
The next day’s journey is basically a retracing of the route via Spangmik, a village close to the banks of the Pangong Tso and home to a small population of the nomadic Chang-pa, a race endemic to South East Ladakh and Tibet. Your jeep safari ends here.
Overnight in hotel. Meals: Breakfast only.
DAY 11: FLY OUT OF LEH
After seven nights in hotels and three nights camping, a drive of just a little over 1000 KM, witness to some of the most spectacular scenery ever, this is truly a journey you will never forget!
10 nights accommodation in hotels/camps on twin sharing basis.
Chauffeur-driven vehicles (Toyota Innova or similar)
Meals - 10 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, and 4 Dinners.
Basic medical kit including oxygen canister.
Mineral water - 2 bottles per person per day.
COST DOES NOT INCLUDE:
International/Domestic air fare or train fare.
Unforeseen expenses that demand a change in itinerary like natural forces, changes in weather, road blockages, flight/train cancellations and illness.
Medical, Travel, or Evacuation insurance.
Expenses of a personal nature - tips, laundry, phone calls, beverages.
• When we have groups of 4+ people we supply a comprehensive first aid kit carried by your guide. For individual trekkers and small groups (less than 4 people) we supply a basic first aid kit carried by your guide
• Your local trek guide and leader of the trekking crew (which depends on group size): Sherpas and Porters with equipment and clothing (snow gear, warm gear, sleeping gear) and with all accommodation, meals and insurance provided for your crew.
The first things you need: • Sleeping bag and liner – a 3 or 4 season bag is recommended, depending on your trek • Down jacket – need for this depends on the season and where you are going • Kit / duffel bag – required to pack your gear in (suitcases are not suitable) Please note: Unless you advise us otherwise we will assume you are bringing these items with you. If you need help to buy or rent them, please just let us know, we’re more than happy to help (down jackets and sleeping bags can be rented).
Other items that we recommend you take on trek: • Loose comfortable T-Shirts NOT COTTON or long sleeved shirts for sun protection • Long trousers (for cultural reasons, we request you not to wear tight pants or shorts. If you really want to wear shorts, please make them loose fitting and long) • A warm jacket / fleece pullover • A thermal layer (shirt and pants) • A water and wind proof layer (jacket and pants) • Woollen or thermal gloves • Sun hat and sun glasses • Woollen or fleece hat • Scarf / stretchy ‘buff’ • Socks – depending on the season bring either warm, woollen socks or cool, breathable cotton socks • Comfortable and worn in trekking boots • Sandals or flip flops for camp • A comfortable day pack with adjustable waist and shoulder straps • Personal toiletries - shampoo, soap, shavers, moisturizer, travel towel, etc • Ziplock bags are handy for convenient leak-proof storage • Sun block and lip balm • Dust mask/ scarf / stretchy ‘buff’ for dusty trails • Personal first aid kit + any personal medications you need to take + water treatment tablets/drops • Camera, batteries and charger, music, book • Airtight and waterproof ‘dry bags’ are great for 1) keeping your clothes dry and 2) storing your dirty laundry separate from clean clothes! • Sleeping bag liner – either silk, cotton or fleece • WATER BOTTLES - please be able to carry 2 litres of water and have bottles that can handle boiling/hot water • HEAD TORCH and spare batteries • Your sense of humour and adventure!
Note: These days most of these items can be purchased in Kathmandu. There are now several leading brand stores selling their own equipment and there are many stores selling cheap imitations and some well established local stores selling under their own labels. Please ask us if you’d like some advice about where to go to get any gear. If you need to do any shopping for gear, please let us know with enough time to do this before leaving for trek!
What to take with you in your day pack: Please carry the following in your day pack, as a minimum: • 2 litres of water (please make sure your water bottles will take boiling/hot water) • sunscreen, sun glasses, sun hat, lip balm, dust mask / scarf / ‘buff’ to help on dusty trails • warm fleece or thermal layer and gloves • water proof layer • head torch • hand cleaner • your camera • any money you want for snacks/drinks along the trail • CRITICAL – take any personal medications you require during the day – you will not see your kit bag until evening.
The rest you can put into your kit bag which will be carried by the porters, whom you won’t see until camp in the evening. It’s a great idea to use dry bags (ie airtight/waterproof) in your kit bag to store your dry clothes in to keep them DRY in case it rains and one to put your dirty laundry in (to keep from making everything else in your bag smell bad!). These dry bags are readily available.
If you have any special dietary requirements, please advise us when booking your trek so that we can cater for you. Note: sometimes not all dietary requirements are able to be met, but please inform us and we will certainly do our best!
Some tips for staying healthy: • Do NOT drink or brush your teeth with tap water or untreated water! • Drink only properly boiled water or use water purification tablets, such as iodine. Bottled water is available, but as the plastic cannot be recycled in Nepal we request you to consider the waste impact of your bottles – we recommend you drink boiled water or use iodine. • Your hands are perhaps your biggest enemy in terms of your health as they get very dirty during the day. Wash your hands before every meal or snack. People often think they get sick from the food, but it’s far more likely they forgot to wash their hands! • During the trek DO NOT try to test your fitness and walk too high, too quickly! Listen to your guide and take their advice as they are trained to look after your safety. Altitude sickness is a killer and you MUST take it seriously.
First aid kit: When we have groups of 4+ people we supply a comprehensive first aid kit carried by your guide. For individual trekkers and small groups (less than 4 people) we supply a smaller first aid kit carried by your guide It is recommended that you bring a small personal medical kit including your preferred painkillers, throat lozenges, plasters, strapping tape for blisters, etc. If you are taking regular medication you MUST bring those medicines with you PLUS an extra supply in case one pack is lost. If you have any allergies and/or take any medications, you MUST advise us when booking your trek!
The trails: Trekking trails vary from wide, road-like avenues to narrow, slippery paths built out over enormous drops. In many places, a fall from the trail would be fatal. One must pay attention at all times to where you are placing your feet. Be especially careful not to move while looking through the view finder of your camera!
Be prepared for the weather: Each altitude has its own weather, from tropical heat to arctic cold. In the main trekking seasons in the spring and autumn, the weather is generally stable and even the high passes may be free of snow and relatively easy to traverse at times. Some trekkers who have encountered an easy day at altitude may spread the word that boots and warm clothing are not required. This is a mistake. Sudden storms occur at any time, dumping snow on the passes without warning. At that point, any one poorly equipped will not be able to proceed and may even be stranded for a number of days risking their life and the lives of others. You are heading into the worlds highest mountain range. Be prepared for changes in temperature and weather!! Altitude and preventing Altitude Sickness: • Being in a hurry in the mountains can be deadly. Acclimatization is the word used to describe the adjustments your body makes as it ascends to higher altitudes. • Ascending slowly, with appropriate rest days and drinking plenty of water is one of the best ways not to get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Data indicates that drinking 3-4 litres of fluids (water, soup etc) per day to avoid dehydration helps in the acclimatization process. • You should not plan to go to high altitude if you have heart disease, difficulty breathing at sea level or are pregnant. You should consult your doctor about any known medical conditions if you are considering trekking in high altitude (over 2500m). • Avoid sleeping pills, alcohol and smoking while at altitude as they tend to decrease breathing and lead to AMS. • The first aid kit carried by your guide includes Diamox and other altitude medications and he/she is trained in the identification of AMS symptoms and their treatment. You MUST take their advice. If anything happens to your guide the first aid kit has a Wilderness Medicine handbook with comprehensive information about altitude sickness and other ailments. When relevant, your pre-trek briefing will include information about what to expect and what to do to avoid AMS before embarking on your trek.
Tipping and cash requirements: While all main meals are provided on trek, do not forget to bring some rupees for drinks or snacks that you might purchase on the way. You will be surprised by what is available on the popular trekking routes now! The amount to carry on the trekking routes depends on the area you are going to trek in, so please ask your guide for advice. Tipping is now common but there are no strict rules about how much the tip should be. You should only tip if you are satisfied with the service.
Photographing people: During your trek you will have many opportunities to photograph local people and the amazing scenery and you will use tons of film/memory space! When you want to take a photo of a person, please ask them first and respect their right to refuse – you will be surprised how easy it is to convey the request to take someone’s photo even when you don’t share a common language! If you have a digital camera it is considerate (and fun!) to show them their photo and if it’s possible to arrange to have copies printed and sent to them this is an amazing gift! However do not promise to do so if you are not sure you can deliver on the promise, so please talk to your guide about this! Photos can be a brilliant way to establish a connection with local people, but please respect their right to privacy.
Considering the Environment: While trekking you have to be careful not to destroy the very environment you are enjoying so much. It is not only for your enjoyment, people and wildlife rely on this environment for their drinking water and food supply and many places are of enormous religious significance to local people.
There are many ways you can help to conserve the environment of the area in which you trek. Here are some simple tips: • pick up any litter along the trail; • burn all your toilet paper and bury your faeces when not in camp, make sure you go at least 50m away from any water source; • do not make campfire, nor consume food cooked on wood fires; • drink boiled/treated water instead of mineral water as the plastic bottles are a problem; • stick to the trails to prevent erosion and damage to fragile alpine flora • ensure all rubbish is packed out (or burnt/buried if appropriate).
Insurance: All tour participants should obtain their own personal insurance which covers medical and emergency evacuation at a minimum. You will of course also want cover for loss or damage to personal effects, flight or trip cancellation etc.
Final tips! To ensure that you have the best time possible, please respect local traditions, customs, values and the environment. You will have a great time if you are open to the warm hearted hospitality and if you respect their efforts to protect their local culture and maintain local pride. • Respect privacy when taking photographs • Respect holy places and dress appropriately • Refrain from giving money or food to children. There are many good organisations working to help street children, we recommend you support them instead of encouraging the kids to stay on the street. • Protect the natural environment, see above • Finally, respect local ways. You may not agree with everything you see and you may want to intervene or say something. Please remember, you probably do not fully understand what you are seeing and in any case your role here on your holiday is not to change the country. If you feel strongly about it then that’s great...there are many avenues for volunteering or long term work here to support positive, sustainable change!